Jesus and women’s ordination

by John Wijngaards, letter to the Tablet, 25 February 2017

Cardinal Vincent Nichols is, of course, entitled to his personal appreciation of “both the celibacy of the priesthood and the fact that it is restricted, as I would believe is the wish of the Lord, to men” (The Tablet, 13 Feb, p. 29). Neither do I question his belief that such is the wish of the Lord. But how do we assess what the Lord wishes?

As to celibacy, Jesus was well aware of Peter being married. And, although Jesus praised voluntary celibacy for the Kingdom, he did not reject Peter as his priest or ask him to separate from his wife. Does this not point to the fact that Jesus did not wish celibacy to be imposed on all his priests as a legal obligation?

With regard to restricting the priesthood to men, Jesus did not express a clear wish. For the twelve he chose only men, because in his time only men could exercise leadership. But Jesus promised the Spirit of Truth. “The Spirit will lead you to the complete truth. For he will not be speaking for himself. He will be speaking what he hears [= discerns]. He will explain future things to you. He will glorify [= do justice to] me, since he will draw from what is mine [= my vision] and will explain it to you” (John 16,13-14). Does this not mean that we should hear the Spirit speak in the ‘future things’ God’s People ask for, and discern the wish of the Lord for the pastoral reality of our time?